My First Lawn!

Brandon0413June 21, 2012

Hi, I moved into my first house at the beginning of last month and am excited about keeping the lawn looking good. I have already made one post on the forum (link below) and have learned a lot from it and others I have read.

I have Bermuda sod and am about to jump into the steps in the Bermuda bible. So far, I have just been watering once a week at 1 inch and mowing once a week with my rotary mower at the second to lowest setting, which is too high. Tomorrow, I will mow at the lowest setting where it should stay. I have been looking at reel mowers, but am not ready to take the plunge yet.

Most of my sod has established itself, however some I am unsure of. Here is my front lawn. They just put in new sod next door along with a couple of trees and a third one to replace mine that died.

Here is a link that might be useful: Other Post

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This is the sod I am unsure of. It's not getting as much sun as all of my back yard, most of which is doing okay like my front yard. Should I be okay putting fertilizer down on this?

Also, there is some on the side of my house that is real thick with straw-like (dormant?) pieces of grass. Do I need to water it more often to wake it up or what?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 11:48PM
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This went down in early May? You are not watering enough. Did you water a couple times a day when the sod first went down?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 9:53AM
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No. I think the sod was installed about 2 months before I moved in. This is pretty much the condition I found it in.

It needed mowed when I moved in and I wasn't able to mow it for a couple weeks because my mower, which was given to me, didn't work. I read online and figured out how to clean the carb and get it running. Itt is looking a bit better since I have been watering it once a week and mowing it once a week.

Should I be watering the sod that looks bad more often than once a week or what do you recommend? Should I wait to put down fertilizer until it is doing better? Some of this sod is pulled up easily as the roots have yet to take hold.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 10:41AM
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The sod that looks bad should be watered with a hose 2-3 times a day, if possible. Do not fertilize the stressed sod until it develops a root system that holds the sod in the ground.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 12:58PM
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dropping mower down a notch will give you a scalped looking lawn and this will continue if you keep mower at that setting. If you want to mow lower you need to cut the grass lower than what you want your new cut height to be. So if you want to cut at one inch you will first need to cut at half inch and then you can go to one inch.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:29PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Bermuda sucks where there's trees.

Just saying. You'll find out why in 5-10 years.

Not very shade tolerant. Might want to try out coarse bladed zoysia like Empire, Jamur or Palisades.

I assume the 2nd picture is located on the north side of the house? It is pointless trying to get it looking decent. Might as well turn it into a shade garden or patio...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 6:53AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I agree with all the above. Do you know what kind of trees those are? If they spread out any at all you are going to have a dead front lawn in a few years. Bermuda needs all the sun it can get. In fact given the lighting, if your neighbor's trees shade your lawn, you will have a dead lawn. You may end up with St Augustine because it is much more shade tolerant than any bermuda. St Aug will likely grow in the area where you are having trouble now.

Are those metal poles supporting the trees? Assuming so, is the wire or rope supporting them tight or loose? It should be loose - loose enough to allow the tree to sway some. If the trees is held tight, then it won't develop supportive roots and might fall when you finally decide you don't want those poles there.

Also can you see the flare of the roots coming out at the base of the trees? If you cannot, then the trees are buried too deep and will not live long. All you have to do to correct that is to pull the soil and mulch away from the trunk until you can see the root flare. You only need about an inch showing. The reason is the bark on the roots is meant to be buried while the bark on the trunk is meant to be exposed to air. If you cover the trunk bark with soil it will get a fungal disease that essentially girdles the tree.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 1:58PM
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Thank you all.

The second picture is actually on the southeast corner of the property. It is on the left in this picture. The back of my house faces slightly southwest.

There is a tree that shades that area throughout some of the day. I think it is a hackberry and I've thought about cutting it down. There are some trees and huge weeds on the other side of the fence as well.

The trees in the first picture are a red oak on the right and a live oak on the left. I checked the cables and the base of the trees. The cables seem fine on the red oak but pretty tight on the live oak. I cannot see the roots on either one. I'll correct that like you suggest. Thanks!

I watered everything this morning and will try to water the "bad looking" areas more often to see if that helps but it may just be a lack of sunlight.

Also, I am going to read through the bermuda bible a couple more times and decide what my next steps are going to be. I didn't cut at the lowest setting yet because of the post about scalping, but the bermuda bible says to scalp in spring so I may just do it and see how it works out. I've also been thinking about getting a reel mower.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 2:52PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Excellent photo of the problem. See that fence right behind the weak looking grass? See that corner? That corner is located about 150 miles too close to the grass. Bermuda does not like having buildings, fences, trees, or shrubs between it and the natural horizon. You may as well start planning what else you might want to do in that corner because bermuda won't grow.

See that area of brown adjacent to the patio? Patios hold the daily heat and keep the soil warm all night long. Evaporation from soil next to concrete or asphalt is much higher than out in the middle of the yard. You can either mulch that area or fix it so it gets more water. I have a permanent soaker hose running 24/7 right along my asphalt driveway. The grass has buried it so you can't see it, but I have much taller grass. Might not work the same for you. If you run a permanent soaker hose, the drip rate is one cup per minute out of the faucet for 75 feet of soaker hose. That seems like nothing, but I have a permanent border of green grass next to my driveway. I'll turn it off when the weather cools off. To set up that drip rate I have a Y hose adapter coming out of the faucet. One side is off most of the time and the other side is connected to a hose going to the soaker. The soaker side is set to drip at 1 cup per minute. If you try to run a soaker like that out of a brass faucet the faucet will develop a leak. It is a design characteristic/flaw with brass. Use a plastic Y with two valves to set the drip. With this setup I have the brass faucet on full all the time and control hose flow rates with the plastic valves in the Y. I hope that is not too confusing.

The trees in the first picture are a red oak on the right and a live oak on the left. I checked the cables and the base of the trees. The cables seem fine on the red oak but pretty tight on the live oak. I cannot see the roots on either one. I'll correct that like you suggest. Thanks!

Glad I asked. You definitely have the wrong turf out front under oak trees. Enjoy the bermuda for as long as you can, and prepare to transition to St Augustine as the shade develops. Those trees are about 60 feet too close to each other, too. It will all work out into one tree canopy, but you only need one tree.

Clip the cables and change to rope. Rope is less harsh on the bark. What I did was tie a large bowline knot around the tree above the first branch. The hole in the bowline is 3 inches in diameter for a 3/4-inch diameter tree. Loose. Then I lightly draped the rope to three giant nails in the ground. Rather than tie separate bowlines in the three guy lines, I tied the other two ropes to the bowline itself. Total cost was about a dollar for the rope and nails. The tree can move several inches but it cannot fall over in any wind. I should take a picture but the tree is dead. Not sure it would be a very effective picture.

Is that an agave in the pot? If so I would advise against planting it in the ground on such a small lot. They grow to be about 10 feet in diameter. Then they shoot a spike flower up about 15 feet and the plant dies. That takes awhile, but for years you have a huge/intrusive plant. If you are on acreage that is one thing. If you live in the suburbs, completely different. When I was a kid we had one that seemed to be in the right place but it continued getting bigger and bigger. Not the right place next to a swimming pool.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 4:33PM
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Thanks for the tips. Looks like my neighbors trees are both too close to mine, too.

I'm not positive, but I think it is an agave of some type. I have another one that I know is an agave, but looks a little different. I was actually planning on getting a bigger pot for it.

I'm still on the fence about cutting at the lower height. If I do, I will cut today at the current height, then in 2 days at the lower height. What do you guys think? Is it too late? Should I wait til next year? It's supposed to be 107 here tomorrow.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 10:23AM
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Alright, I mowed my lawn at the lowest setting last night. It was leaving behind a lot of clippings and was getting out of control so I bagged most of it.

It revealed how uneven my lawn is and I noticed some deep cracks between some of the sod in the back yard. I was able to put a copper wire over 12 inches deep in some spots without pushing into dirt. Here's a picture of a ruler I dropped into one and it fell down about 8 inches deep. I was able to do that in a few spots.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:42PM
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I noticed mowing lower got rid of a lot of the dormant grass that was laying over, which is what the Bermuda Bible mentioned would happen.

I've decided to skip herbicide for now as I haven't been having many problems with weeds. But, I'm thinking it's about time for some fertilizer. My front lawn is at least 50% greened up but after mowing, my side yards and back yard are mostly brown stems since I've been mowing too tall. I think I can get some 35-0-5 without having to drive too far. How long after putting it down can I wait to water it in? I was hoping to put it down friday evening then water it in real good early saturday morning.

Do you guys see any problem with my plan? Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:55PM
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From doing a bit of reading I think I most likely have a lot of clay in my soil and a lack of water at some point caused the cracks to develop.

I have read that I can fill the cracks with sand or topsoil. What do you suggest?

Also, mowing at the lower heights revealed a few low spots that caused the mower to bottom out. I'd like to fill in these spots as well and it seems like the consensus is something like builders sand for leveling purposes but what about the bald spots? Is there anything I can do to fix them or just wait for it to fill back in?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 6:24PM
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Yep, good luck maintaining your yard at the lowest 2 settings on your rotary. I too started the bermuda bible this year, but the uneven ground kept me burning circles into high points or near bumps. I've simply had to settle on the 3rd lowest setting. The more level parts of my yard were looking great at the 2nd lowest setting, though. I'm hoping the 3rd lowest doesn't kill that horizontal growth.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 6:03PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I had to return to the original post and start reading again to see what I missed. You have only been watering once a week on new sod. As has been mentioned, new sod needs to be watered 3x per DAY for about 10 minutes each time (breakfast, lunch, and dinner times). That should have been done for about 3 weeks after you put the sod down. Since you got the sod after that period, you should have started when you saw what the problem was. Like midway down through this series of messages.

Just because you have cracks does not mean you have clay. An over abundance of magnesium ions will give the same effect. You can start watering slowly and continually along the cracks to re-swell the soil. I'd use a soaker hose. In fact I have used a soaker hose for this. My niece's gate almost fell over because the post on one end was in the middle of a huge crack. I propped up the gate and put a soaker hose on it for a few days. After a few days the crack was still there but significantly closed up. At least you could lock the gate again. Anyway you have lost the fungal mass in your soil. You need continual slow watering get that back. I'd run the soaker for 3 weeks minimum. Set it so the output at the faucet is about 1 cup per minute. That is a slow trickle - barely a stream out of the faucet. That should be good for at least 75 feet of soaker hose.

Before doing that I would spray a generous amount of shampoo down around the cracks and into them. Then water slowly to get the water to soak in without any runoff. Just because the cracks close up, that does not mean you suddenly have healthy soil again. That process can take months. Once the cracks close, you can go back to a more normal watering. Be sure you are getting a full inch per week.

One test you can do on your soil is the Jar Test. Google it or look around here at GW for it. That test will confirm for you that you have very little clay in your soil. I say that with some confidence because I can probably count the outcroppings of clay in South Texas on one hand. If you want to find out the exact make up of your soil, do not send a soil test to TAMU. Send it to Logan Labs in Ohio. LL can do a much better test for $20 than TAMU could do for $100.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:27PM
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